Tuesday 24 December 2013

Three Fathers

On Sunday a rendezvous in  a windswept motorway service station saw me taking possession of a package from Tim Gow of Megablitz and more containing various papers from the collection of the late John G Robertson of Dundee, who was well known in wargaming circles in Scotland. Chief amongst them was a copy of Don Featherstone's Wargamers Newsletter Wargamers Yearbook 1966/7, which I had never seen before.

It is a rich source of 1966 goodies and some of them will appear here in due course. However, the thing I have most been interested in is a long article by Don himself entitled The Early Days of Wargaming - The R.L. Stevenson story.

This reports research by one Karl G Zipple of Michigan into Stevenson's wargames at Davos in 1880-1883 and contains some sources I haven't seen before.

The reason it has caught my interest to so great an extent is in the context of George Keef and Georland, who got properly into his stride in 1872, eight years before  RLS at Davos. This shows the importance of George Keef as a previously unknown early proponent of wargaming with figures, and earlier than the previously accepted pioneer RLS.

Clearly, whenever people have had toy soldiers there have been people throwing things at them and fighting battles. However, reading Don Featherstone's article reinforced the view that George Keef is now eligible to be counted as one of the early fathers of wargaming, along with HG Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson.

More on this along with the text of the article can be found in these four posts over on the Georland blog.

Friday 6 December 2013

Georland Soldiers

The photograph below have been posted on the History of Georland blog but I thought I would put them here for anyone who hasn't found their way over there yet.

It has emerged that most of the figures are demi rondes of around 30mm size for foot figures. Many were Franco Prussian War figures bought cheaply in around 1873 and repainted or otherwise converted. There are some flats in the collection as well - these are thought to be a later addition.

Any definite identification of manufacturers and subjects would be very welcome.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Blogger problem - search box

I have just noticed that the Blogger search gadget (at Search Vintage Wargaming at the right of this page) has stopped working. I have now replaced it with another gadget which seems to be working.

My apologies to anyone who has tried to use the search and was unsuccessful. In such cases it is always helpful to be informed by comment, as it is easy for me to miss.


Saturday 23 November 2013

Here we go...

This then is the promised news:

Following the showing of the segment on the Antiques Roadshow regarding the Keef family collection of figures and revealing a previously unknown chapter in the history of early wargaming, I have been working with the family on a transcription of the Journal The History of the Army of George 1 which describes the campaigns and battles fought between 1873 and 1894.

Originally this had been with the intention of possibly serialising the Journal here on Vintage Wargaming, but on reflection and with the approval of the family it seemed it deserved a web presence all of its own. This is really a web site using blogger as a platform, rather than a traditional blog, and it remains to be seen to what extent it will be added to in the future. I would hope some further historical notes on the collection itself and more photographs of some of the figures as they are today will be added over time.

The campaigns and battles in the Journal are profusely illustrated with maps and plans.These have been reproduced within the posts on the blog. However, as the Journal is foolscap in size it is not easy to scan on a standard A4 scanner, and I have been working from photographs of pages rather than scans, so these are not as well defined as I perhaps would like. Over time it is hoped that these pictures can be replaced with higher resolution scans, but they are included as they are to provide visual interest and illustration.

As Graham Lay, the expert on the Antiques Roadshow, pointed out the importance of the collection is that it substantially predates what is generally thought of as the first documented example of wargaming with figures, the  Lloyd Osbourne article "Stevenson at Play" in Scribners Magazine of 1898, describing Robert Louis Stevenson's wargames.

Additionally, it is remarkable not only the extent to which it is documented, but the extent to which this documentation, along with the collection, has survived, thanks to a family which never threw anything away. In addition to the Journal there are a number of other sources of information including the letters home of George Keef while overseas on military service, and notes written by other members of the family.

The full text of the Journal is now available in a series of posts on the new blog, The History of Georland (click to follow the link). Visit it, bookmark it, comment on it, and keep an eye on it to see if further material of interest is added in the future.

I would particularly like to thank the Keef family for their willingness to make all this material available to a wider audience and the considerable trouble they have taken to make this possible.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Teaser - some big news soon

Just to say - there will be some interesting news to follow up the Antiques Roadshow posts, coming soon.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

That Terry Wise article

Thanks to Matt and indirectly to old John, here is a scan of the Airfix magazine article by Terence Wise from Airfix Magazine July 1978.

I'm afraid the quality of the scan isn't so good though I have put it through Paint Shop to sharpen up the text (the photos are particularly poor though)

Monday 11 November 2013

Request - Airfix magazine article from July 1978

I have had an email from Adrian in Germany who years ago produced a Napoleonic Austrian army from Airfix conversions inspired by an article by Terry Wise in Airfix Magazine July 1978. He no longer has the army or the article, but inspired by Matt's Airfix Wargames Blog he would like to recreate the one with the help of the other. If anyone has access to a copy of the article please could you email me using the Contacting Vintage Wargaming button at the head of this page and I will pass it on.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Mike Blake War of Independence Uniform, Weapons and Equipment 3: German Figures

The third part of the series from Almark Modelworld February 1973.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Mike Blake on War of Independence Uniforms, Weapons and Equipment 2 German Infantry from Almark Modelworld January 1973

The second of four articles in the series by Mike Blake, from Almark Modelworld January 1973.

As the article on German Military Semaphore Signals 1939-1945 doesn't run over the page, I have left it in as a bonus.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Mike Blake on Airfix AWI conversions, Almark Modelworld November 1972

First of a series of four articles (the rest to follow) by Mike Blake on converting Airfix figures for the American War of Independence.

Ground breaking stuff for the time, in one of my favourite magazines.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Antiques Roadshow update

The family of Colonel Oliver Keef, the gentleman who appeared with the collection of soldiers on Antiques Roadshow, have now published on You Tube a six minute video shot in May 2013 of him telling the story of the collection and how it was made and used.  I was particularly interested to hear that his grandfather George had been buried at sea in 1901 with a battery of artillery and some infantry in his coffin. There are also some further pictures of the figures themselves.

Monday 30 September 2013

More News from the Antiques Roadshow

A further email has landed from Graham Lay - he thinks the figures may have been 30mm but can't be sure. He has also been reading your comments here.

He writes:

Thank you so much for your further e-mail. I had no idea that Donald Featherstone had died recently, what a loss. However he has left behind a huge legacy of which we can all be grateful.

I am truly sorry that I cannot recall the size of the figures as I know how important this is to the identity of the makers. I have viewed again all of the recording we made including that which was left out. As you will no doubt understand, we often take up to 30 minutes to record all that is needed, which is edited down to about 4 minutes. Much of the remainder is no more than repositioning things and video that we can use in editing later (what we term 'cutaways'). These consist of close-ups of a finger pointing, or a minute of me nodding and suchlike. However the day is incredibly hectic and it is difficult to remember all things. Even so I am pretty sure that I recall 30mm, although I may be mistaken. I hope you will be able to discuss this with the family perhaps.

Having read some of the other comments one of the things that I recall was that 'miniskirt' highlanders were felt to be repainted French figures and not moulded as Scots at all. I think it is important for you to discuss this with the family really. Will you let me know if you do so and what progress you make please? I would be truly interested to know your thoughts once you have gone deeper into it.

Best wishes

If any further progress is made, I will let you know, but timing may be dictated by the wishes of the family, should they make contact.

Sunday 29 September 2013

S Range Crimean war Armies

As always, click on photos to enlarge.

I have been working on completing (hah!) my S Range Crimean war armies. I don't offer these as example of painting (mine is very basic and based on as neat block painting as I can achieve) or particularly wonderful figures (though I think they are charming). I do think they look good en masse and I'm quite pleased with the overall effect.The Crimean Range was among the later figures produced under the S Range banner and also is of interest for coming out at the time Minifigs were moving from one piece cavalry to separate riders and horses; certainly some of the Crimean Types came out in both formats, so marking this transition.

I still need to add flags - I have some rather nice Adolfo Ramos ones but they are ever so slightly too large for the S Range standard bearers, so I need to extend some flag poles; also they do not cover all the units I need to cover. My Turks are waiting for a couple of suitable artillery pieces (the British have four Hinchliffe guns I had to had; there are plenty of Russian artillerymen but so far they only have French Napoleonic cannon. The French contingent is future project. Franco Prussian War and Jacobite Rebellion will be my next S Range projects.I do have other Crimean figures, mainly from Douglas and Hinton Hunt, but I would be reluctant to use them together.

When I started out I decided to mount figures individually on MDF bases, 20 mm x 20 mm for foot and 20mm x 40 mm for mounted figures. I have now added a stock of suitably sized close order trays from War Bases to accommodate my units. I am rather pleased with the results.

I'm intending to post these and maybe a few more pictures with fuller captions over on the Lone S Ranger blog.

Friday 27 September 2013

Wargaming on the Antiques Roadshow - take 2

The Antiques Roadshow got back in touch with me yesterday after I contacted them on date of broadcast of the item shown in the previous post.

Graham Lay, the expert involved, says:

Thank you for the email which has been forwarded by our office at the BBC regarding the fascinating early lead wargaming figures and most unusual and possibly unique hand written book describing some of the campaigns fought between the youngest brother in India and other countries and the two brothers at home in Liverpool. One of the interesting aspects is that most of the figures had been repainted in different uniforms, so making French soldiers (from German and French soldiers of the Franco-Prussian war) into British for example. This was done actually at the time of that war or probably just afterwards. I am not sure if this is something that happened often but I believe not. It is likely that necessity caused them to use whatever they were able to obtain.

I felt sure at the time I saw the collection and recorded it with the owner (grandson of the original chap) that this was not just a collection of some importance in the wargaming field because of its early period but also would be of great interest to those whose pastime it is.

I am not certain that the owner I interviewed knew of the real historical importance of the objects or if they had ever come across people such as yourself, or Donald Featherstone for example, in the past. The original owner, whose photographs we showed in the programme was born in 1858. The handwritten book gives dates that are not quite correct bearing in mind his birth year and it appears earlier than in fact it was. For example it states that the army was formed in 1860, which would lead the reader to believe that he started to use the figures at that time, whereas in fact he would have only been two years old. It is understood that he started wargaming at around fifteen years of age. This must be borne in mind if you have the opportunity of looking at it. It primarily describes campaigns in the fictional country of Georland (his name was George) and is quite detailed and has some good illustrations. George died fairly young of dysentery on the ship on his way home from Rangoon I believe when the current owner's father was four years old. In some of his letters he describes various campaigns and it is not until they are read some way into the letter that it is understood whether he is referring to real or lead soldiers!

My office at the BBC is in contact with the family and will contact you shortly to let you know if they are happy to talk to you. I will give my full support and encouragement to the family to speak with you.

I have asked Graham if he could estimate the size of the figures - whether 30mm or 40-45mm - as preople have found this surprisingly difficult to do from viewing the programme.

I will let people know of any further progress through the blog

Monday 9 September 2013

Wargaming on the Antiques Roadshow

Tonight's edition of the BBC's Antiques Roadshow (Eastbourne Bandstand 2) had an intriguing item on a collection of around 1,000 metal figures dating from the 1860s and 1870s, which had been used for wargames by a boy who became and officer in the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1878. He took the bulk of them on his first posting to Rangoon, where he played wargames on the floor of his bungalow with the Regimental Surgeon on a large canvas map spread on the floor. It also sounded as if he might have conducted some play by mail activity with his brothers who remained with the rest of the collection in Liverpool. The collection also includes a large notebook which described how these wargames were carried out.

Antiques Roadshow expert Graham Lay says he is puzzled as he thinks wargaming (meaning battles with model soldiers) is usually accepted to have started at the turn of the century. This view is understandable - Lloyd Osbourne's article in Scribner's Magazine on Robert Louis Stevenson's wargames appeared in 1898.

While clearly people will have fought battles with their model soldiers for many years, from simple plying to more formal rules, this does seem a notable new instance and could be the earliest dated example of more formal wargaming.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Rospaks - Roman painting instructions and shield transfers

I recently acquired three unopened packs of AR1, Roman Imperial Legionaries, along with the original painting guide and shield transfers. The painting guide is headed sheet 2 so presumably sheet 1 dealt with the Greeks.

As I hadn't seen the instructions or the transfers before I thought I would post them here.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Don Featherstone 1918-2013

Amid all the reports today of the death of Don Featherstone I was wondering what would make a fitting tribute here.

Wargamers Newsletter was on of his greatest achievements, not just for the length of time over which he published it monthly (1962-1980) but the way in the pre internet age it informed and sustained wargamers across the world.

It therefore seems appropriate to let Don's own words speak for him. In issue 201 of December 1978 he confessed he had forgotten to mark the 200th consecutive monthly issue. He then published this article looking back on those 200 issues, including a look back to issue no 1.

We also should not (and will not) forget his many books, which introduced many people to the hobby.

Just me then?

But a serious point - outside of the hobby Don Featherstone had many achievements and a whole other set of published work in his professional life as a physiotherapist, with Southampton FC and elsewhere.